There's no show without Punch, it's said. But he's coming, this week against Georgia.

The sporting story of the year will twist into spectacular life in Cardiff when the All Blacks select Waisake Naholo to play his first game of the tournament.

The big Fijian wing is on track. He's been training freely for a week and, as long as he doesn't adversely react to the demands of the next few days, he'll be on the park at the Millennium Stadium.

Radio Sport rugby editor Nigel Yalden reports on day eight of the rugby World Cup in England.

"There are obviously two guys, Liam [Messam] and Waisake, who haven't played," said All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster before the team left their London base for Cardiff.


"Clearly our plan coming in was for Waisake to target the Georgian game and, yes, he is on track. There will be a couple more boxes to tick in the first two or three days of the training week but the signs are looking really good for his availability.

"He has been working pretty hard and he'll go through a couple of days of solid contact sessions but he's very confident right now and the medics can just about sign him off."
When he's named to start, it will be an incredible achievement in what has already been the most incredible 12 months for the 24-year-old. If his head never stops spinning, it wouldn't be a surprise because Naholo has endured and enjoyed a scarcely believable year.

Where to start? Maybe with a recap because it's such a tale of twists and turns and it never tires of being told. And, besides, it needs to be fully appreciated to understand why it's such a big deal that this young man will be an active part of the All Blacks campaign this week.

All Blacks Asst coach Ian Foster gives his frank assessment of the AB's play and attitude in the match against Namibia. When the game got slow he says the All Blacks lost their form.

Naholo was the man who was dumped by the Blues after a few appearances in 2013 and washed up playing sevens for New Zealand in 2014. He returned to Taranaki to play in the ITM Cup, helped them win it and, in the process, Foster rang the Highlanders and said they should find room for Naholo.

Funnily enough, French club Clermont had the same thought. Desperate as they were for a powerful wing, they threw their hat in the ring, winning his signature to start with them in August 2015.

So he was all sorted - a season in Dunedin and then off to France to be supremely well paid. Except as the Highlanders' season developed, so too did Naholo.

A light switched on for him, as if he hadn't previously realised just how strong and powerful he was. As his confidence grew, so too did his appetite for the outrageous - he was the man who scored tries no one else could.

He was converting from the most insane positions, using footwork, speed, strength, agility and incredibly good ball skills to keep touching down.


Against the Hurricanes, he even managed to sprint away from Julian Savea and, yet, those watching would swear Naholo wasn't even trying.

He became a no-brainer selection for the All Blacks, and not just because of his physical prowess. What they liked was the depth to his offering.

Naholo, with a slight technical flaw of coming square to the high ball, impressed with his aerial skills. His positional awareness was astute and underpinning everything was a work ethic.

Thousands turned out at London's Canary Wharf at the AIG fan zone to see All Blacks captain Richie McCaw at the AIG fan zone.

His contractual situation wasn't actually a concern for the All Blacks. They would have taken Naholo to the World Cup even knowing he was off to France afterwards. But he wriggled and jiggled, made it clear he wanted out of it and, when Clermont were able to sign Hosea Gear as an alternative, they agreed to let Naholo out of the deal.

A Super Rugby title came with the Highlanders and then his test debut followed two weeks later. He was a typical débutante in that he was a mixture of good and not so good. But the the not so good had plenty to do with the fact he broke his leg shortly before halftime and played on.

His World Cup dream was pronounced all but over the next morning. He wouldn't recover until late September and, with outside backs spewing out of the factory, Naholo had only the tiniest chance of being considered.

Here the truth shall not be allowed to get in the way of the story. As everyone knows, Naholo returned to Fiji to see family, including his uncle who indulged in traditional medicinal treatments. Before anyone could say otherwise, there was talk of a miracle cure, brought by a magical witch doctor.

Sometimes ... it's best just to go with the flow and, if that's the story, that's the story. And what a cracker it is.

The All Blacks are happy to leave it there as all they care about is that they had enough confidence Naholo would be fit soon enough to make a meaningful contribution at the World Cup.

They were happy to take that risk, partly because they felt the rewards justified it. But they also had confidence in Naholo's mental capacity to deal with not playing for so long and then be thrust into the pool rounds of a World Cup first game back. Not only is it first game back, but it will also be just his second test.

It's a huge ask and, while Naholo may well set this tournament alight, Foster has asked for patience.

"If you look at the last two games when there hasn't been much rugby played, they generally take a while to adjust," he said. "I think we have to be a little bit patient when he does get out on the park and it's not only that he's had time away [from playing] but he's only had, what, 45 minutes with the All Blacks in his career.

"He's got a bit of adjustment just to get into the flow of how we play. Hopefully everyone will give him the chance to ease into it but clearly we need him to be up to speed pretty quickly. He's been working hard behind the scenes, studying a lot and, while that is not the ultimate substitute for game time, I think he will adapt pretty quickly."